The anatomy of the Renaissance voice

Wistreich, R. and Richards, J. (2016) The anatomy of the Renaissance voice. In: The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 276-293. ISBN 9781474400046 (hardback) 9781474414555 (e-book)


This chapter explores the oral and aural dimensions of the anatomical experience in the Renaissance, recovering the ‘voice’ as a sixth sense integral to the communication of ‘embodied thinking’. First, we explore the tradition of anatomy inaugurated by Girolamo Fabricio (Fabricius), appointed to the chair of anatomy and surgery in Padua in 1565, focusing on the work of his brilliant student, Guilio Casserio (Casserius). This gave medical students different ways of experiencing the body’s interior, allowing for philosophical as well as physiological speculation on the nature and function of ‘voice’. Secondly, we explore the importance of philosophical speculation on voice and hearing to the vast anatomical work of one English physician, Helkiah Crooke’s Mikrokosmographia (1615). What matters most about this tradition is its commitment to recovering the interrelationship between the mind and the body, between thinking and the senses, in short, with what might be described as ‘embodied thinking’. This historical analysis is used to remind us how sight-dominated our way of thinking has become, and to recover the critical value of other ways of sensing our world.

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